SOCIAL welfare inspectors are to mount road checkpoints without gardaí as part of the latest crackdown on welfare fraud.

Under new legislation, set out by the minister for social and family affairs, Mary Hanafin, after last month's budget, social welfare inspectors now have the power to mount checkpoints with customs officers, without the need for a garda presence.

The inspectors can question occupants of a car to check whether they are claiming social welfare payments while also working.

"Since the intensive operations to counter cross-border welfare abuses have commenced at the end of February 2009, almost 1,000 people have been stopped and interviewed at the checkpoints," said Hanafin.

"Of these, a total of 64 cases have been disallowed or reduced, totalling savings of the order of €500,000."

The Sunday Tribune understands similar checks, this time without the assistance of the gardaí, will begin across the country in the coming weeks.

The checkpoints are just one of a series of measures Hanafin is spearheading in her clampdown on welfare fraud. The new anti-fraud powers also allow for the scanning of the bank accounts of suspected social-welfare cheats. If an inspector has reason to believe someone is fraudulently claiming welfare, they can serve notice on a bank to make the person's acc­­ounts available.

The inspectors' increased access also allows them to check if foreign nationals are largely withdrawing money from outside the state and makes it easier for Hanafin's department to track cases of people living in the North and claiming welfare payments by using false addresses in the south.

Over 600 staff work in areas related to control of fraud and abuse of the welfare system.

"The department continues to use every available means to crack down on welfare fraud," said Hanafin.